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Trumps war on science and Johnsons civil service purge may be on hold but their politics of polarisation lives on, says Guardian columnist John Harris

In most crises we tend to see the story we want to see. And in this one, those of us who cling on to collectivist, egalitarian ideas can discern things that speak to our sense of how the world ought to be organised. To find crumbs of political comfort in a dire public health emergency might seem inappropriate. But unforeseen events always have consequences beyond their immediate impact: just because they fit some of our existing beliefs that does not make them any less real.

Even if the new imperative of social distancing sounds like the ultimate example of individualism and frantic panic-buying does not exactly look like an expression of altruism, our shared humanity has also been brought to the surface, or soon will be. As the rapid appearance online of community help initiatives proves, we are already getting used to doing some of what the common good requires.

Quick guide

What to do if you have coronavirus symptoms in the UK

Stay at home for 7 days if you have either:

  • a high temperature
  • a new continuous cough

This will help to protect others in your community while you are infectious.

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

You do not need to contact NHS 111 to tell them youre staying at home.

People who are self-isolating with mild symptoms will not be tested.

Source: NHS England

And as usually happens with sudden adverse events, the arrival of the Covid-19 virus has pushed the state and public sector into the foreground. The government machine suddenly looks less like the sclerotic inconvenience that annoys people like Dominic Cummings than the most basic means of help we have. Only weeks ago, people close to Boris Johnson were declaring war on the civil service and the BBC; now, both institutions are surely at the heart of however we collectively proceed. Ministers are suddenly back on the Radio 4 Today programme. Mindful that people have actually not had enough of experts, Johnson is now at pains to be seen deferring to the chief medical officer and the governments chief scientific adviser. If the big-spending budget suggested that Cummings and his allies quest to pull Conservatism somewhere different was in full roar, the arrival of Covid-19 surely means their revolutionary plans for the state have been postponed.

Something comparable may be afoot in the US. Last week, the New York Times ran a piece of political analysis headlined Trump meets an enemy that cant be tweeted away. Covid-19, said the writer, does not respond to Mr Trumps favourite instruments of power: it cannot be cowed by Twitter posts, it cannot be shot down by drones, it cannot be overcome by party solidarity, it cannot be overpowered by campaign rally chants. Reality, it seemed, had suddenly intruded on a presidency built on performance and manipulation, and Trump had instantly been found wanting.

Again, whatever ones politics, there is an undeniable truth to all this. As we know, the US is way behind other countries on testing, and cuts made by the Trump administration to crucial branches of government now look supremely reckless. The kind of denial the president was still pushing only a week or so ago forms part of the same picture: with accidental echoes of the occasion in 2006 when Johnson paid humorous tribute to laissez-faire government by praising the fictional mayor from Jaws and his decision to keep his beaches open, Trump has recently been lampooned as the real thing, downplaying a mounting emergency, lest it threaten the economic success on which his re-election might depend.

Johnson is now at pains to be seen deferring to the chief medical officer and the governments chief scientific adviser. Boris Johnson at his 13 March press conference on coronavirus. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Woven through this take on the presidents position is a progressive article of faith: the idea that although populists might be capable rabble-rousers, they always fall down when it comes to basic competence. This, clearly, is the Democratic partys collective rationale for the anointing of Joe Biden, the walking embodiment of the idea that the best alternative to Trumps misrule is the reassuringly dull, conventional statesmanship of yesteryear.

Might such a sea-change be a realistic prospect? For a long time now, all over the world, politics and government and their surrounding discourse have increasingly amounted to a spectacle of anger, rhetoric and a supposed battle of values in which the political right particularly its latter-day, populist incarnation has usually been on the winning side. The story perhaps began with George W Bushs consigliere Karl Rove, and his characterisation of his bosss detractors as the reality-based community: its subsequent milestones include both the arrival in office of a president whose metier is outrage and provocation rather than anything material, and Brexits triumph of prejudice and romance over facts and figures.

As reality bites, something about coronavirus feels like it might at least have loosened the grip of these ideas. Whatever his outbursts, every day brings unflattering footage of Trump among scientists, officials and the representatives of big US companies and the image of an awkward, impatient man, arms folded, seemingly determined to shut out whatever wisdom might be on offer. Here, the BBCs Newsnight recently saw fit to broadcast a characteristically nuanced view of the governments response to the virus from Nigel Farage, to a loud chorus of groans. His inclusion seemed not just incongruous, but silly. And therein lay a tantalising prospect: of a political discourse that might sooner or later reconnect to the basics of government, and the real world.

And yet, and yet. Europe is still haunted by populist ghouls, predictably claiming that the virus validates everything they stand for: Matteo Salvini, Marine Le Pen and Hungarys Viktor Orbn, whose national security adviser recently claimed to see a certain link between coronavirus and illegal migrants.

Ten days ago, I was on a reporting job in Worksop, the former Nottinghamshire mining town in a local government district whose vote-share for Brexit was nearly 70%. The huge TV in the breakfast room was blaring out some or other piece about Covid-19, which soon caught the attention of the staff member in charge. I think this is all bollocks, he said. Youre not going to tell me it was a coincidence it started in an overpopulated country. Two fiftysomething men had just ordered their food, and instantly joined in. The first thing they can do is stop all these refugees coming in, said one. Their apparent default setting was stubborn disbelief, mixed with the conviction that this latest emergency would not have arrived had it not been for foreigners.

Reality, it seemed, had suddenly intruded on a presidency built on performance and manipulation, and Trump had instantly been found wanting. Donald Trump and his adviser at a press briefing on 14 March. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

As if clumsily leading his kindred spirits across the world to the correct position, Trump has moved through these two phases in a matter of days. Only a week or so ago, he favoured denial. Now, as evidenced by the televised address he delivered last Wednesday and his ban on flights from Europe, his embrace of drastic measures is framed by the kind of themes that won him the presidency.

His spiel contained the giveaway words America first; inside 40 seconds, he used the phrase foreign virus. By way of mood music, senior Republicans talk about the pandemic as the Chinese coronavirus or Wuhan coronavirus, and everything blurs into the ocean of conspiracy theory now swirling around online, which Trump is inevitably happy to stoke.

Whatever the controversies over its approach to the virus, and the prime ministers long record of playing to base prejudice, our own government has chosen a higher path. But hateful, ugly things are out there in the culture, and may yet rise to the surface. In stories of public service in the most awful circumstances and a rising sense that the only useful responses to this crisis are necessarily empathetic and humane, you see people and governments at their best. But whatever the impacts of the most serious health emergency in a generation, perhaps a model of politics based on division and polarisation is now so embedded that it will inevitably condition some of the worlds response. History suggests as much: steps forward always accompanied by lurches back, as humanity does what it usually does, and simply muddles through.

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

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Washington (CNN)Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg was challenged late last year about the New York Police Department’s widespread surveillance of Muslims when he was mayor of New York City.

In an exchange filmed in December but tweeted out only last week, Bloomberg told Sarah Pearson, a Milwaukee activist and organizer who is also a supporter of rival candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, that he is a strong supporter of the Muslim community and its rights. He also claimed: “We only went into mosques when they asked us to come in.”
When Pearson pressed him further on the surveillance, Bloomberg said the police “only went in when the mosque or the imam asked … period. End of story.”
    Facts First: Mosques and other Islamic organizations were surveilled without being asked or notified during the Bloomberg mayoralty that began in 2002, including with secret informants and undercover officers. Muslim leaders in New York City and in New Jersey, where the NYPD also conducted surveillance, say Bloomberg’s claim that the police went into mosques only when invited in is categorically false. Adam Goldman, a journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize as part of an Associated Press team that exposed the surveillance program, says the same.
    “That statement is totally false. The NYPD surveillance of the Muslim community was warrantless and it was covert in nature,” said Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid of New York’s Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, who is a former president of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York.
    “The statement that the former mayor is making is completely untrue,” said Imam W. Deen Shareef, convener of the Council of Imams in New Jersey. “None of the mosques and none of the organizations, for that matter — none of the schools that were placed under the surveillance — were contacted, and none of the leaders within the Muslim community here in New Jersey had any knowledge whatsoever of the New York Police Department having any interest in looking for or investigating or questioning anyone about whatever it is they were looking for.”
    Bloomberg’s campaign did not respond to requests for an explanation of his remarks. The NYPD declined to comment.

    An extensive surveillance program

    As the Associated Press reported in its series of Pulitzer-winning articles in 2011, the Bloomberg-era NYPD surveilled mosques in various uninvited ways for years after 9/11 — from creating a network of mosque informants to sending in undercover officers to mounting surveillance cameras on nearby light poles to shooting photos of people arriving to pray and collecting their license plate numbers.
    Bloomberg’s claim “is so plainly, demonstrably untrue that it would be almost laughable had it not been for the devastating effects that unwarranted NYPD surveillance had on American Muslim communities in New York City and beyond,” said Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York who directs the CLEAR (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility) project that represented the plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits against the surveillance program.
    It is possible that Bloomberg, who took office about three-and-a-half months after 9/11, was referring to occasions on which police leaders and officers were invited into mosques for meetings or gatherings. Before the Associated Press broke the news about the surveillance program in 2011, “imams and mosques throughout the city were really very open and welcoming to NYPD,” said Abdur-Rashid.
    But Bloomberg had been asked specifically about surveillance. Though loud music was playing in the background as he spoke with Pearson at the opening of a campaign office in Milwaukee, he made clear that he heard that this is what she was talking about.
    And the NYPD secretly surveilled even mosques and imams who had invited the NYPD in for other reasons. For example, the Associated Press reported, Sheikh Reda Shata, formerly of a mosque in Brooklyn, invited NYPD officers for breakfast, threw parties for officers leaving the precinct and dined with Bloomberg at the mayor’s official mansion. But Shata, who had no criminal past, was being watched by an undercover officer and informant, and his mosque was being watched too.
    “The book details an extensive clandestine effort to monitor many mosques across the city using informants and undercover officers,” said Goldman, now a reporter with The New York Times, who co-authored the book Enemies Within“about the surveillance program.
    Pearson said her exchange with Bloomberg took place on December 21, 2019. She said she tweeted the two video clips of the exchange last Wednesday because of a hashtag that has been circulating, #AskBloomberg, which encouraged the moderators at Bloomberg’s first Democratic debate to ask him tough questions.
    “I had held back because I didn’t want my questioning of his record to be viewed as something I was doing simply because I support another candidate,” she said.

    Surveillance beyond mosques

    Goldman said the surveillance program began in 2002, the year Bloomberg took office, after the NYPD hired a veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency as its first deputy commissioner for intelligence.
    The surveillance extended far beyond mosques, touching thousands of innocent Muslim residents in other locations. According to the Associated Press reporting, the NYPD eavesdropped in cafes, sending plainclothes officers to query people about their views on political and international issues. The NYPD placed undercover officers at Muslim student associations. And the NYPD recorded mundane details of the daily lives of Muslims, such as where they played chess or where they shopped for groceries.
    It is possible that there is a case in which an imam did make some sort of private request to the NYPD. But Bloomberg’s suggestion that surveillance happened exclusively with the permission of imams is clearly inaccurate.
    Under Bloomberg’s successor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City settled three lawsuits over the surveillance program. The city agreed to tighten guidelines for investigations related to political or religious activity protected by the First Amendment, which a judge had weakened in 2003. It also agreed to significantly greater oversight of such investigations through the appointment of a “civilian representative,” who is empowered to tell the court at any time if police are violating the guidelines.
    The New York City Council also took action against Bloomberg’s wishes during the final months of his mayoralty in 2013. In response to complaints about both the surveillance of Muslims and the policy of “stop and frisk,” which disproportionately targeted black and Latino residents, the council voted to appoint an inspector general to serve as a watchdog over NYPD activities — overriding Bloomberg’s veto.
      As with stop and frisk, Bloomberg defended the surveillance of Muslims as mayor; he said in 2012, “We have to keep this country safe.” But while he has been apologizing for stop and frisk since November 2019, the month he launched his presidential campaign, he has not issued apologies for the surveillance program.
      Bloomberg’s campaign did not respond when asked if he would apologize or has any regrets over the program.

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      New Delhi (CNN)President Donald Trump touched down in India on Monday ready to feel the love.

      Trump’s optics-heavy official visit begins at the elaborate “Namaste Trump” rally in the world’s largest cricket stadium, held in Modi’s home state. Before arriving in the throngs, he is visiting the Ashram where Mahatma Gandhi, the father of Indian independence, lived from 1917-1930. After, he will take in the sunset from the Taj Mahal.
      Trump tweeted from Air Force One a few hours before he was due to arrive: “We are ready to visit India. We are on our way. We will be meeting everyone in a few hours from now.”
        When he emerged from Air Force One, Trump and Modi embraced while traditional folk music from Gujarat state — complete with blowing conch shells and persistent drumming — began echoing. Women with rainbow flower strands stacked atop their headdresses danced to the rhythm.
        At Gandhi’s Ashram, Trump and first lady Melania Trump — who removed their shoes for the tour — viewed a traditional charkha spinning wheel, closely associated with Gandhi that came to represent self sufficiency during the non-cooperation movement. After, Modi unveiled three marble statuettes, about a foot tall, of monkeys making the “speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil” motions as a gift.
        “To my great friend, thank you for this wonderful visit,” Trump wrote in the site’s guest book.
        Trump has placed his expected crowd count in the range of 6 to 10 million, but given the city’s population of 8 million and the stadium’s capacity of 110,000, those figures seem high. Still, the crowd is expected to be massive, including along Trump’s motorcade route, where thousands of hand-selected members of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party welcomed him into Ahmedabad in India’s northwest.
        Trump will spend several hours with Modi, whom he describes as a friend. There are plenty of surface-level similarities between the men, like a penchant for populist nationalism and ardent followings. But their backgrounds differ vastly and they hold divergent economic views.
        “I hear it’s going to be a big event. Some people say the biggest event they’ve ever had in India. That’s what the Prime Minister told me,” Trump told reporters before departing the White House on Sunday. “This will be the biggest event they’ve ever had. So, it’s going to be very exciting.”
        Trump is generally a reluctant traveler and the trip to India takes him away from the White House for only a night.
        “That’s not too much,” he said on Sunday.
        The real work takes place Tuesday, when Trump and Modi are expected to haggle over a festering trade dispute and discuss security-related matters.
        On trade, Trump has insisted that US trade deficits be reduced and has used harsh tactics like tariffs to achieve his goals. After he applied stiff new tariffs on steel and aluminum, India responded by placing new duties on medical devices and farm products. The US then stripped India of special trade status meant for developing countries.
          Trump has all but ruled out striking a grand trade deal on this trip. But some type of trade truce seemed likely, or at least some agreement between the two countries to work toward resolving their differences.
          US administration officials also say Trump plans to confront Modi over troubling steps that amount to Democratic backsliding, like a new law that denies citizenship to Muslims. And Trump’s offer still stands to help mediate an ongoing dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan, though Modi has essentially rejected his overtures.

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          (CNN)Editor’s Note: This story originally published on April 15, 2019. It has been updated to reflect the Democratic debate on February 19.

          Sanders in 2019 released a decade of tax returns that provided new insight into how he became a millionaire between his two presidential runs.

          According to returns provided by his campaign in April 2019, Sanders and wife Jane’s bottom line jumped from $240,622 in 2015, the year he launched his first White House bid, to $1,073,333 a year later, as the once obscure lawmaker became a political sensation on the left and a bestselling author with royalties pouring in.

          Since that first run, Sanders and his wife made a total of more than $2.79 million, putting them in the category of the super-rich.
            Sanders in a statement saidlast year the returns “show that our family has been very fortunate.”
            “I consider paying more in taxes as my income rose to be both an obligation and an investment in our country,” he added. “I will continue to fight to make our tax system more progressive so that our country has the resources to guarantee the American Dream to all people.”
            The records show Sanders’ growing income and confirmed his status as a millionaire, largely on the strength of proceeds from book sales, including the bestselling “Where We Go From Here,” published with Macmillan in 2018.
            Sanders reported a total 2018 family income of $566,421 — $382,920 of which came from writing and royalties. The documents showed he paid $137,573 in federal taxes in 2018 and owed $8,267 in taxes for the year. Sanders reported paying a 26% effective tax rate on his adjusted gross income. The couple reported donating $18,950 to charity.
            Sanders last year made $110 in music royalties, presumably for his 1987 folk album, “We Shall Overcome,” and an additional $1,810 from his 1997 memoir, “Outsider in the House,” which was published by Verso. He was paid and additional $391,000 for his books.
            Sanders had come under increasing pressure to make the tax disclosures as his primary rivals rolled out their own returns and critics — along with some allies — began to agitate for a more complete, public look inside the candidate’s pocketbook. The issue had become even more politically heated with Democrats continuing to demand President Donald Trump’s tax returns.
            The revelation that Sanders is now a millionaire had, in some quarters, surfaced doubts over his ability to effectively deliver the progressive populist message that made him a political star.
            Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir brushed off those suggestions, telling CNN the candidate’s personal wealth had “zero impact” on his policies.
            “If the ultimate question is, will he credibly push special interests and the billionaire class and the wealthy in this country to do the things that need to be done, like Medicare for All, like a climate jobs plan, the answer is yes,” Shakir said. “He could earn another million dollars and it would still wouldn’t matter.”
            In 2016, during his first presidential campaign, Sanders released only one year of records — from 2014. Sanders recently revealed that his income from book sales in the aftermath of that race had made him a millionaire. Still, he remains one of the least wealthy members of the US Senate.
              “Bernie Sanders paid his fair share of taxes,” Shakir said, adding that he hoped the returns would quiet the “hubbub and kerfuffle” that had grown in anticipation of its release. He also conceded that vague promises from Sanders and the campaign about their plans had contributed to the speculation. In multiple forums, including a CNN town hall shortly after he entered the race in February, Sanders pledge to share them “soon.
              “I think there was some interpretation left to ‘soon,’ which I, in retrospect, would’ve loved to have alleviated by being a little bit more clear about when it was coming,” Shakir said. “We wanted to do 10 years and so we had (an internal) conversation saying, ‘let’s just do it all at once so we have the most recent one.'”

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              (CNN)Joe Biden mocks Pete Buttigieg’s experience as a small-city mayor in a new digital ad the former vice president’s campaign is using on YouTube and Facebook in New Hampshire ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

              Biden, who is attempting to turn around his flagging campaign after a fourth-place finish in Iowa, dismissed comparisons between his attacks on Buttigieg and Hillary Clinton’s criticism of then-Sen. Barack Obama’s limited experience when the two were primary rivals in 2008.
              “Oh come on, man,” Biden told reporters in Manchester. “This guy’s not a Barack Obama.”
                Biden’s attacks come as Democratic contenders grapple with a reshaped race after Buttigieg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders paced the field in Iowa: Buttigieg is surging, seizing control of the race’s more moderate lane, and Tuesday’s primary could strengthen his standing. A new CNN poll Saturday showed him second to Sanders — and well ahead of everyone else — in New Hampshire. Buttigieg’s rivals are increasingly desperate to slow his momentum and cast doubt on his experience and readiness for the presidency.

                Biden’s attack ad

                The ad, a digital spot appearing on Facebook and YouTube ahead of Tuesday’s primary, was an opening salvo in a day of escalated attacks. Titled “Pete’s Record” and reported first by CNN, it makes a series of cheeky comparisons between the two candidates — contrasting Biden’s time shepherding major legislation to passage and negotiating international agreements with the smaller challenges facing the mayor of a city of 100,000.
                It’s the most direct, negative ad aired to date by any leading Democratic presidential contender against a primary rival. The ad reflects a new sense of urgency in Biden’s campaign: The former vice president and his aides have said they expect to lose New Hampshire, too — but his campaign is looking to regain its footing as the race moves to Nevada and South Carolina later this month.
                “We’re electing a President,” the narrator says. “What you’ve done matters.”
                The ad starts with a narrator saying: “When President Obama called on him, Joe Biden helped lead the passage of the Affordable Care Act. And when parkgoers called on Pete Buttigieg, he installed decorative lights under bridges, giving citizens of South Bend colorfully illuminated rivers.”
                With each comparison, the music changes from a serious-sounding melody when describing Biden’s record to a clownish melody to denote a mocking tone when describing Buttigieg.
                The comparisons include Biden’s help in negotiating the Iran nuclear deal and his work on the Recovery Act. “Both Vice President Biden and Mayor Pete have helped shape our economy,” the narrator says facetiously, saying that while Biden helped revitalize the economy by passing the Recovery Act, Buttigieg revitalized South Bend’s economy by laying out “decorative brick” on the sidewalks.
                The ad also knocks Buttigieg’s record on race in South Bend, taking direct aim at the former mayor’s biggest weakness in the Democratic presidential race: his lack of support from non-white voters.
                It slams Buttigieg for the firing of the African American police chief of South Bend. “And then he forced out the African American fire chief, too,” the narrator ads.
                The realities behind those charges are more complicated than Biden’s ad lets on: Buttigieg sought to fire the police chief after the chief had not told Buttigieg his police department was under federal investigation. The chief was ultimately demoted. The fire chief, meanwhile, had announced his retirement — only to change his mind after Buttigieg had already hired his replacement.

                Buttigieg: No DC experience is ‘exactly the point’

                Buttigieg appeared to respond to the ad on Saturday at an event in Hanover, New Hampshire.
                Without naming Biden, Buttigieg said, “I know some folks are out there saying, ‘What business does a mayor of South Bend have running for the presidency? You don’t have an office in Washington. Your community is a little out of the way.'”
                “What I’m saying is that that’s exactly the point,” he continued. “Right now there are so many communities, so many Americans, small and medium-sized cities like mine, and neighborhoods in some of the biggest cities in the country, that feel like Washington can’t even hear us.”
                “I’m here to carry those voices to Washington, to bring solutions not from Washington but to our nation’s capital, because I believe that we would be well-served if we could start to get Washington to work a little more like our best-run cities and towns rather than the other way around,” Buttigieg said.
                Buttigieg national press secretary Chris Meagher responded to the ad in a statement, writing, “At this moment, the American people are crying out for something completely different from this classic Washington style of politics. While Washington politics trivializes what goes on in communities like South Bend, South Bend residents who now have better jobs, rising income, and new life in their city don’t think their lives are a Washington politician’s punchline.”
                Meagher continued, “Pete’s on the ground experience as mayor, turning around a Midwestern industrial city, is exactly why he is running for president. The Vice President’s decision to run this ad speaks more to where he currently stands in this race than it does about Pete’s perspective as a mayor and veteran.”

                Mayors backing Buttigieg bash Biden over ad

                Mayors who support Buttigieg’s presidential campaign criticized the ad, saying that Biden was diminishing the importance of voices from small cities and towns.
                Christine Hunschofsky of Parkland, Florida, wrote, “my city is Parkland, FL, with 33,000 residents. What happens in our cities matter too. This arrogant, disrespectful and dismissive tone is exactly what our country, our cities and our residents do not need.”
                Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley tweeted: “I’m from Dayton, population 140,371. Are you saying voices from our towns don’t matter?”
                Waterloo, Iowa, Mayor Quentin Hart said: “As Mayor of Waterloo with a population of 68,000 are you saying that voices from cities like mine don’t matter? All communities matter whether small or large.”

                Biden’s shift in tone

                Biden’s shift in tone comes directly after he admitted a “gut punch” defeat in Iowa, coming in fourth in the state’s caucuses. Wednesday at an event in New Hampshire, Biden singled out Sanders and Buttigieg during a speech, warning attendees that Sanders would hurt Democrats running in down ballot elections because he is a democratic socialist and admonishing Buttigieg for what he described as criticism of Obama’s presidency.
                Campaigning on Saturday in Manchester, Biden said he was merely responding to Buttigieg arguing that Democrats should move beyond the politics of the “past” — and also took credit for South Bend’s resurgence.
                “One of the reasons why that city, in South Bend, did well is because I was able to direct about $65 million there from the recovery act. So I’m not picking on Pete, I’m just responding to Pete,” Biden said.
                Earlier in the day, he’d compared his record in Washington with Buttigieg’s in South Bend.
                  “Do I think there’s a difference between getting a city budget passed in South Bend — smaller than the city of Manchester? Or getting three Republicans to vote for a $900 billion recovery act, that saved us and generated less than 1% waste for fraud? Yeah, I do,” Biden said.
                  At the Democratic Debate Friday, Biden seemed to downplay expectations in New Hampshire. “It’s a long race. I took a hit in Iowa and I’ll probably take it here,” he said, acknowledging that the “neighboring senators,” namely Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, are poised to do well because of their geographical advantage.

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                  (CNN)Donald Trump is moving fast in the wake of his impeachment trial to use the government to punish his enemies and pursue his political ends, underlining how his acquittal has helped make him one of history’s most powerful modern Presidents.

                  He is completing his project of fashioning the office around his own personality. It’s unrestrained, unaccountable, often profane, impervious to outside influence and factual constraints of normal governance. The President has established dominance over his party, his Cabinet and his own media complex. He loosened Congress’s constraints by refusing to cooperate with the impeachment probe.
                  The result is that there are very few political constraints on his behavior left.
                    Trump sent a strong signal of Washington’s new power realities Friday by ignoring pleas from the Republican senators who acquitted him and who had hoped to protect those who testified against him.
                    Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a national security council Ukraine specialist and his brother Yevgeny, a national security lawyer who was not involved in the Ukraine controversy, were sent back to the Pentagon. US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who effectively implicated Trump in a quid pro quo in colorful House testimony was also sent packing.
                    Republican senators have correctly pointed out that the President has the power to fire anyone in the executive branch and has the right to a team in which he has confidence.
                    “He’s a political appointee. He serves at the pleasure of the President,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, referring to Vindman.
                    Yet Trump’s moves, conducted so quickly after the ending of the impeachment showdown were a clear sign that those who cross him will pay a price — in a way that could send a chill through the government and stifle dissent and accountability. And they undermine the comments of GOP senators who in voting to acquit the President suggested that the shame of impeachment could temper his behavior.
                    Similarly, Trump’s vocal attacks on Mitt Romney, the sole senator in history to vote to convict a President of his own party send an unmistakable warning to the GOP: the President demands total loyalty. Those who refuse are ostracized.
                    Trump is also set to ignore another constitutional norm — that Congress has the power of the purse — by diverting billions more in already appropriated funding to pay for his border wall. The administration argues it does not require the approval of lawmakers for such steps. But lawmakers from both parties have complained about losing funding for projects within their own states and have argued the practice is symptomatic of a wider transfer of power from Capitol Hill to the White House.

                    Taking aim at the NSC

                    This week, the President is expected to take another scythe to the restraining bureaucracy by gutting the National Security Council itself, a rare remaining source of non-Trumpian thought in the government.
                    Now that impeachment is over, there are also signs that Trump’s government and allies are using their power to perpetuate the behavior — targeting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden — that caused him to be impeached in the first place.
                    Graham said Sunday that the Justice Department was now evaluating information about the role of Biden’s son Hunter in a Ukrainian energy company provided by Trump’s personal lawyer.
                    “The Department of Justice is receiving information coming out of the Ukraine from Rudy (Giuliani),” Graham said on CBS, citing a conversation with Attorney General William Barr.
                    “He told me that they have created a process that Rudy could give information and they would see if it’s verified,” Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said. Graham also warned that any information Giuliani collected in Ukraine needed to be evaluated by Justice to ensure that it did not contain Russian propaganda. But given previous evidence that Barr is acting not as the independent arbiter of the US Justice system but as a political facilitator for the President, there will be extreme skepticism among Democrats about Justice handling Giuliani’s material at all.
                    Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, his potential 2020 general election rival, were at the center of the President’s impeachment trial. Trump and his allies have repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege that the Bidens acted corruptly in Ukraine.

                    Trump shows how he will use his new power

                    In a post-impeachment appearance at the White House last week, the President lashed out at his political enemies, even questioning the faith of some critics, hinting that he would use his power to exact vengeance.
                    He branded his opponents “evil,” compared those who investigated his presidency to “dirty cops,” blasted the Russia probe as “bullsh*t” and condemned his critics as “liars and leakers.”
                    This is all music to the ears of Republican voters — more than 90% of whom are gravitating to a strongman President sitting atop a purring economy. And Democrats are suddenly beginning to realize the formidable task they face in November. Trump last week had the highest approval rating of his presidency — 49% in a Gallup tracking poll — and is building a formidable election machine in swing states while Democrats struggle to identify their best potential candidate to take him on. His State of the Union address last week underlined how Trump will use the strength of the economy — on which his ratings outpace his presidential job approval numbers, to make a case for a second term.
                    From a historic perspective, the President’s consolidation of his own position is a political achievement that is not to be discounted. It is even more notable than his dominance of the Republican nomination chase in 2016 and remarkable for the fact that he had no prior political experience.
                    But it also raises profound questions about the balance between the branches of government and puts American democracy under the most strain that it has faced in decades.
                    And it raises the possibility that the President’s instincts could steer him on to more murky legal and constitutional ground. After all, his notorious “do us a favor” phone call with Ukraine’s President came just two days after ex-special counsel Robert Mueller testified on the Russian probe in Congress.
                    The President’s new-found political liberation is the culmination of three years of tearing at the norms of his office and of defanging competing centers of power. He has comprehensively answered the question posed at the beginning of his term: would he change to accommodate the presidency or bend the office in deference to his wild, unrestrained personality?
                    Trump has removed cabinet titans like former Defense Secretary James Mattis and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who worked to contain his more impulsive instincts. He has replaced them with more compliant loyalists, and also favors pliable and dispensable acting cabinet secretaries.
                      And he has discovered, especially during the impeachment drama, that a President who is willing to ignore the institutional restraints around his office and the normal codes of moral behavior that have attached themselves to his role can access a well of power that his predecessors were unable to tap.
                      That’s part of a reason why his presidency seems likely to set many new precedents for the behavior of the executive in the US political system before it ends — and why the current period up until the next election could be a particularly intense ride for Trump and the nation.

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                      Las Vegas, Nevada (CNN)Jorge Trejo-Ibarra lit up when Bernie Sanders talked about health care at a Las Vegas rally over the weekend.

                      Trejo-Ibarra, after going into remission, decided to get more politically involved and will serve as a precinct captain for Sanders in Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. It fills a dual purpose for him: He wants to fight for people who can’t afford insurance, which covered his own cancer treatments. And he wants to help those who can’t speak English participate in the upcoming caucuses.
                      Sanders is counting on young Latino voters like Trejo-Ibarra, who can participate in the caucuses because he’ll turn 18 before Election Day, to carry him to victory in Nevada.
                        Nevada will be the first real test of whether Sanders has been able to expand his appeal in the diverse universe of Democratic voters, particularly within the Latino community, where the Sanders campaign made a huge push to connect with voters more than eight months ago.
                        “We believe health care is a human right for all people,” Sanders said at a Saturday rally. “We are going to take on the greed of the insurance companies and the drug companies and we are going to pass a Medicare for All single-payer program.”
                        Sanders will have to contend with the powerful Culinary Union, which fought for and negotiated excellent health benefits, because of its opposition to Medicare for All. The organization says it represents 60,000 hotel and casino workers in Nevada and provides health insurance coverage for more than 130,000 people. It is unclear how much the union’s opposition to Medicare for All will hurt Sanders, as the union decided to not endorse any 2020 candidate before the caucuses.
                        And Sanders’ presidential rivals are looking to halt the senator’s momentum following his win in New Hampshire and strong showing in Iowa. Businessman Tom Steyer has invested heavily in the state, and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar are also running ads in Spanish as they look to court Latino voters.
                        But in interviews with more than two dozen Latino voters in Spanish and English over the last few days in predominantly Latino areas of Las Vegas, Sanders’ came up most often, with younger Latino voters describing a particularly passionate desire to elect Sanders. Voters of all ages said they liked Sanders’ plans on health care, education, the environment and tuition-free college.
                        “As of today, it’s very predictable that Bernie is going to come in first. I would say that it’s unsure who is going to come in second,” Andres Ramirez, a Democratic strategist in Las Vegas, said in an interview with CNN on Friday.

                        ‘99% of the Latino vote hasn’t spoken yet’

                        At the same time that Sanders was rallying voters and leading a march to an early voting location, former Vice President Joe Biden took the microphone at a middle school gymnasium just a 10-minute drive away. Attendance at his Latino-focused phone-banking event was sparse, filled in part with footsoldiers from California who had come to the state to help canvass for him.
                        But among them was Rafael Garcia, who made up his mind to vote for Biden that day. “This man has done so much for this country,” Garcia said.
                        The 59-year-old boxing trainer said he wasn’t worried about Biden’s losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the former vice president placed fourth and fifth respectively.
                        “It could have been the weather out there, or that new people wanted to be heard,” Garcia said, noting that voters have many choices this cycle. “There were women running. A war hero in Pete (Buttigieg). I love Bernie (Sanders). But I’d like to see everybody come out for Joe (Biden).”
                        There, Biden reminded the crowd, “99% of the Latino vote hasn’t spoken yet.”
                        Biden led the Vermont Senator in two January polls from Suffolk University and Fox News, with Sanders coming in second. But polling has been consistently off the mark in Nevada, not only because it’s difficult to predict who will participate in a caucus, but because many casino workers work unusual hours and the state has a constantly changing population with movement in and out of the state.
                        Age composition of Saturday’s turnout will also be a factor. Sanders has a huge edge among younger voters, while Biden does better among older ones. The Sanders’ team hopes to see a robust turnout among young voters. The fact that 56% of early voters this weekend were first time caucusgoers was a good sign for the Vermont senator.
                        Sanders had the edge among Latinos nationally in a Pew Research Center poll of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters last month: 30% favored the Vermont Senator, 22% supported Biden, 11% backed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. All of the other candidates were in low single digits.

                        Months of targeted outreach

                        The caucuses will be a test of the Sanders’ campaign’s heavy investments in Latino outreach. Gleaning their data from voter files, Sanders’ team estimates more than 101,000 Nevada Latinos have registered to vote since the last caucuses. That number is huge considering only 84,000 Democrats caucused in Nevada in 2016.
                        More than 26,000 Nevadans participated in the first two days of early voting over the weekend, according to the party, which estimated that 56 percent were first time caucusgoers.
                        In 2016, the campaign recognized Sanders’ popularity among Latinos, senior Sanders adviser Chuck Rocha said, “but we learned it too late to capitalize on it, because we were building the airplane and flying it at the same time.”
                        This time, it started investing resources eight months ago, hiring from within the community through what Rocha describes as a multi-layered communications operation.
                        “If you can think of any way possible for a Latino of any age to consume information to learn about the election, we were talking to them on that platform,” Rocha said in an interview with CNN.
                        Beyond television, that included mailers, newspapers, Instagram, Facebook, Spanish-language radio, panel trucks, texts, phone and ads on music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify.
                        “It helped us reconnect with a young group of Latinos who’ve been following Bernie since the last election. It helped us to start building a relationship with an older demographic of Latinos, who always vote, but may not have known or trusted Bernie in the beginning—but their children did,” Rocha said.
                        “So we had eight months to talk to them about Bernie when nobody else was talking to them,” he said. “It also helped us start reaching out to a new group of Latinos, which is the largest group who are newly registered, who nobody is talking to.”
                        The Sanders campaign says it now has more than 250 staff members on the ground in Nevada. It opened the first of their 11 Nevada offices in the predominantly Latino area of East Las Vegas last July. In December, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez co-hosted the first Spanish-language town hall for Sanders and the campaign has led caucus trainings in Spanish, as well as in languages such as Tagalog, Mandarin and Vietnamese.

                        Candidates build up their Nevada operations

                        Sanders isn’t alone in investing in Nevada. Buttigieg recently doubled his staff on the ground and Steyer ramped up his operation late last year, putting together a team of Latino senior aides to lead his operation.
                        Steyer, who has spent $14.7 million on ads in Nevada to Sanders’ $1.9 million, also came up frequently in interviews with Latino voters, with a majority of people saying they had seen or heard an ad from the campaign.
                        Sanders, Steyer, Buttigieg and Klobuchar are all running ads in Spanish in Nevada. Buttigieg, who speaks Spanish, narrates his own ad in Spanish. And Steyer was the first to go negative in Nevada, targeting Sanders on his support for Medicare for All.
                        “There’s a reason people are nervous about Bernie Sanders scrapping Obamacare,” the narrator says in Steyer’s ad. “Unions don’t like it … And Bernie can’t or won’t give us a price tag.”
                        Armando Arciga, a 51-year-old construction worker in Las Vegas, said outside of a Cardenas supermarket that he is voting for Steyer because the climate crisis is the number one issue Arciga cares about.
                        Nick Maldonado, 37, is the CEO of the Latino franchise Toro Taxes, and told CNN at an event hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens that his company endorsed Steyer.
                        “I appreciate the fact that (Steyer’s) a businessman, but still a Democrat, and still focused on local issues,” Maldonado said. He touted Steyer’s Latino-run staff in Nevada, and said Steyer’s campaign reached out and asked for an endorsement.
                        Buttigieg, who is looking to build on his strong performance in Iowa and New Hampshire, now has more than 100 staff members on the ground in Nevada and more than 40% of them speak Spanish, according to the campaign.
                        The former mayor was quick to criticize Klobuchar Sunday after both she and Steyer were unable to name the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, during interviews with Telemundo in Nevada last week. During a town hall Sunday in Las Vegas, Buttigieg was asked what it says about Washington experience that “a sitting US Senator could not name Mexico’s president?”
                        “Guess what? It says is that there is more to being prepared than how many years you spent in Washington,” said Buttigieg, who had answered the question correctly in his own interview with Telemundo.
                        Buttigieg’s operation began pushing out Spanish-language digital ads in December, as well as Spanish-language radio ads, which were also narrated by the former mayor. It opened it’s East Las Vegas office in mid-September, conducting caucus trainings in Spanish, and providing Spanish-language canvassing tools to their volunteers—including their “relational organizing” tool that allows a volunteer to contact their own contacts on behalf of Buttigieg.
                        Still, several Nevada political strategists noted in interviews that Sanders’ volunteer footprint in Nevada was unmatched, while Biden’s organizing infrastructure has been lighter than expected. Despite Sanders’ apparent edge, it remains unclear whether the friction over his health care plan with the Culinary Union will benefit more moderate candidates like Buttigieg, Biden and Klobuchar.
                        “Bernie has tremendous volunteer investments in Nevada,” said Kristian Ramos, a political consultant who works with Latino groups like Mi Familia Vota, which is focused on expanding the voting population in Nevada.
                        But he noted that Latino voters over 45 have tended to dominate the caucuses in the past, so the age of voters who turn out will be a major determining factor.
                        “The question becomes ‘Can Pete Buttigieg take all this momentum and turn it into something real in Nevada,” Ramos said, “and is that enough to overcome Bernie’s youth volunteer army?”

                        ‘He’s a go-getter’

                        While Sanders is counting on younger voters, he has appealed to Latino voters of all ages.
                        William Chavez, 62, said he is voting for Sanders and cited the senator’s support of the Green New Deal, tuition-free colleges, and Medicare for All as reasons why he supports him.
                        “(Sanders) is at that age, he could have just retired and relaxed and enjoy life, but no, he’s fighting for the people. And he’s trying to unite us, not divide us,” Chavez, a retired casino worker who lives in Las Vegas, told CNN at a Sanders rally.
                        “He’s a go-getter,” Chavez said. “He had a heart attack, right? I’ve had two. Nothing stops me. Nothing stops him.”
                        Rosie Beltren, a 65-year-old housekeeper who works on the Las Vegas strip and supports Sanders because she believes he will raise the minimum wage and help the many immigrants working in Nevada who don’t have a pathway to citizenship.
                        “Most important for me: health care. A lot of people need it,” Beltren said while talking with a friend who was selling tamales in the parking lot of a Cardenas supermarket last week. “Last week I bought one medicine, only one. $248,” said Beltran, who needed three medications to treat her cancer. “I need more than one, but I didn’t have the money.”
                        “There are a lot of people who need their papers for work — they are good people, they work so hard, but they can’t get papers,” Beltren said.
                        Sanders has also drawn the support of Keila Eustaquio, a 24-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient who plans to volunteer for his campaign even though she cannot legally vote for him.
                        “A lot of people I know are rooting for Bernie; we were rooting for him last time … He just has a lot of plans to do a lot of good things for our community—as far as giving everyone citizenship, healthcare,” said Eustaquio, who was born in Mexico and runs her own business in Las Vegas. She cited Biden as her second choice because “I feel safe with him.”
                        Eustaquio, after a shopping trip at the Cardenas Market with friends last week, acknowledged that some of Sanders’ plans are unlikely to pass through Congress, a fact that she knows will be used against him if he faces a General Election matchup with Trump.
                          “Trump has realistic goals and Sanders doesn’t,” she said, “but what (Sanders) wants to do is life-changing for all of the people.”
                          CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct Chuck Rocha’s name.

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                          The long read: He is now the countrys de facto project manager, but what does he actually believe? In a bid to find out, I read (almost) everything Cummings has written in the last decade

                          When the prime minister of the day describes you as a career psychopath, your chances of preferment in the political world may not seem rosy. When associates of a leading minister refer to you as that jumped-up oik, you may sense youre not winning friends in high places. When a senior official in the department where you are employed calls you a mutant virus, you may feel less than wholly accepted. And when a prominent MP in the party you work for denounces you as an unelected foul-mouthed oaf, it may seem that the game is up. Furnished with these testimonials, some downsizing of career ambitions may appear to be in order.

                          But Dominic Cummings has never played by the rules, and now, as Boris Johnsons de facto chief-of-staff, he has become perhaps the most powerful unelected political figure in the country. He thus has an exceptional opportunity to put his ideas into practice. But what are his ideas? Commentators seem vaguely aware that, although he studied history at university, he has dabbled in more than one scientific discipline over the years, but no one, it appears, has really tried to take the measure of Cummings as a serious thinker.

                          There has, of course, been no shortage of comment on the various roles he has played in British political life in the last couple of decades. He came to the fore as a special adviser to the Tory politician Michael Gove between 2007 and 2013 (ie both before and during Goves tumultuous years as secretary of state for education); he attracted further attention as the chief administrative mastermind behind the successful leave campaign in the 2016 referendum on Britains membership of the EU; and when Boris Johnson became prime minister in July 2019, Cummings was installed as his chief aide, directing operations from within Downing Street.

                          What may be less well known is that for much of this period Cummings has maintained an unusual blog, where he has posted extensive ruminations on his reading, enthusiastic reports about breakthroughs in science and pungent contributions to debates about education, spicing the mix with some notably unbuttoned ad hominem side-swipes for example, describing David Davis, then the Brexit minister, as thick as mince. Several of these posts have an intrinsic intellectual interest, but, given his current role at the heart of power, they may also yield insights into the thinking of someone whose ideas could soon have consequences for all of us.

                          I cant honestly claim to do much by way of community service but, as some twisted equivalent of a new year resolution, I decided I would sacrifice myself for the common good in January by spending the greater part of the month reading The Complete Blogs of Dominic Cummings. Well, perhaps not quite complete, as I have only gone back to 2013 and I have skipped several of the more functional or repetitive pieces, but I have more than compensated for any light-footed skimming by reading all 133,000 words of his magnum opus, posted in 2014 and titled Some thoughts on education and political priorities, in which he described his ideal of an Odyssean education. What follows is my report on this unusual body of work.

                          Dominic Cummings is the best-known unknown historian of ideas in the country. Learned contributions to this scholarly field are, of course, not what he is celebrated for, but a surprising amount of what he writes falls under this label. He is fascinated by ideas partly fascinated by their beauty and power, partly fascinated in the same way as a small boy is fascinated by firecrackers that can be let off behind unsuspecting old ladies. In Cummingss view, the world seems to be largely populated by old ladies, metaphorically speaking timid, easily spooked people whom he delights in unsettling.

                          But his firecrackers are assembled from genuine scientific components. Cummings is knowledgeable about an impressive variety of disciplines, and from this formidable if eclectic reading he has attempted to synthesise ideas he believes would transform the way the world is run (lack of ambition is not a defect of his thinking). The sense in which I am, tongue only slightly in cheek, calling him a historian of ideas is that he traces in some detail the evolution of the ideas that interest him, and gives us, especially in his remarkable book-length essay on the elements of a university curriculum that comprise his Odyssean education, a crash course in the history of mathematics, physics, genetics, psychology, economics and much more.

                          Dominic Cummings at the Nato leaders summit in Watford, Hertfordshire, December 2019. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

                          He takes the term Odyssean education from the Nobel-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann, referring to an education that starts with the biggest questions and problems and teaches people to understand connections between them. The aim would be to train synthesisers. He appears contemptuous of most politicians, almost all media commentators, and all civil servants: none of these people really understand statistical modelling, quantum computation, synthetic biology, and so on. (Too many of them studied PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) at Oxford University which, in his view, just turns duffers into bluffers.) As a result, they make or encourage poor decisions. Better project management in complex organisations is what we need, and his essay sketches a wide-ranging syllabus that would educate the effective decision-makers of the future.

                          More broadly, Cummings repeatedly argues that the processes of government need to include 1) a number of outstanding scientists capable of bringing fundamental science to bear on policy formation, and 2) a general level of scientific and numerical literacy such that MPs, officials, journalists and others can understand basic scientific discoveries and their significance. The overall aim should be to make the UK the leading country for education and science.

                          At times, he can make this seem like the merest common sense; at other times he sounds like CP Snow on speed (Snows Two Cultures lecture of 1959 is mainly remembered for its ardent advocacy of the need for scientific literacy among policymakers). He has attained an impressive level of scientific understanding himself, but with it has come more than a touch of the boffins bee-filled bonnet. A good example of this unsteady combination is provided by his attempt to imagine the effect that genome-sequencing may have on the NHS in terms of identifying risk factors for certain diseases, eliminating congenital defects, and so on. The potential benefits and efficiencies are certainly striking. But he cannot resist going further, a little too quickly: We will soon be able to re-make human nature itself, he writes. No point in pussy-footing around just doing hip replacements lets do a complete makeover while were in there.

                          As all this suggests, Cummings is undeniably clever, even if not always notably judicious. Intellectual restlessness is one of his hallmarks: his capacity to stretch his mind, to absorb new ideas, to see parallels and analogies that jump across the tracks, is constantly on display. He is an Oxford history graduate who has turned himself into a numbers guy, or at least into the frontman for the numbers people someone who understands enough of what they do to make the case for its importance to the rest of us. He says hes happy to be told where hes wrong, though you cant help feeling that he doesnt expect there will be much call for such frankness.

                          And there are any number of things he is right about, or anyway right-ish. One is the foolishness of diverting funding away from basic blue skies scientific research in order to promote more applied work. Governments are prone to think that doing this will lead to more immediately useful outcomes, and hence it will be easier to justify the public expenditure involved, but the historical record is against them. Over and over again, theoretical enquiries that looked at the time to have no useful application turn out to be what enabled various later practical advances and inventions, from code-breaking to computers. Cummings understands this: he not only prioritises basic science, but he gets the need to give people the autonomy and security to explore not obviously useful-looking avenues of enquiry.

                          At times, he can seem to flirt with a kind of anarchic libertarianism, attracted by a vision of unconstrained individual creativity, but against this is his recognition of the need for central state funding of basic science. He rightly stresses the role of federal funding in providing the research base for the Silicon Valley phenomenon in the US, for example, and he looks favourably on institutions such as the CNRS in France that are designed to sustain research on a long-term basis. (He also says, rather gnomically, that he is not a libertarian because its not consistent with evolutionary biology.) Overall he is surely right that public debate desperately needs more statistical literacy, as well as a better appreciation of the long-term benefits of basic research.

                          Cummingss call for a curriculum that might combine, say, maths, science and history is driven by his focus on project management in politics. Such an education would, he contends, provide a training in the calculation of probabilities when weighing competing proposals. But there is a recurring difficulty with schemes that attempt to build in interdisciplinarity from the start. Yes, it sounds great to scorn those who are stuck in their disciplinary silos and to laud imaginative thinkers who address the really big problems, and so on, but the fact is that you cant educate someone to be interdisciplinary. You have to educate them in particular disciplines (possibly more than one), and then set up more specific or temporary or opportunistic arrangements for bringing them together and cross-pollinating. If we are to stay on Cummingss preferred ground of intellectual history, we would have to point out that, in modern times, nearly all the influential ideas and great discoveries have come from people working within a particular discipline. Specialisation is the precondition of intellectual advance, even if subsequent interdisciplinary thinking can then sometimes be an effective way to address complex practical problems.

                          In his ambitious intellectual and educational synthesis there are some obvious, and rather predictable, lacunae. He is dismissive of most of the social sciences, especially sociology and anthropology, precisely because they purport to explore the distinctive power of the social: their practitioners are mostly charlatans. Here he sounds like a souped-up version of Margaret Thatcher: there is no such thing as society, just the patterned interaction of evolutionarily moulded individuals. There are frequent irritable swipes at something called French literary theory and the damage it has allegedly done to the humanities; here we seem to be encountering nothing more than a lazy journalistic stereotype, a headline-happy approach that contrasts so strikingly with the care with which he expounds ideas from, say, evolutionary psychology.

                          His voluminous writings suggest no cultivated interest in the study of art or music, nor, a few allusions to Dostoevsky and Tolstoy aside, in literature, or anyway not in literary criticism, though one wonders whether he might not have a taste for certain forms of science fiction. A few philosophers get walk-on parts (he quotes Nietzsche fairly often, but then who doesnt?), but on the whole he seems to treat modern philosophy, certainly the discipline of academic philosophy, as an irrelevance or an obstruction. Although he expresses a general commitment to including the humanities in his synthesis, in practice they (with the exception of history) seem marginal to his main interests.

                          However, there is another omission that is less predictable, yet, in its way, more revealing. Cummings is practically silent about jurisprudence and the law. (In his diatribes against the always obstructive civil service, legal arguments are occasionally mentioned, but only to be swatted aside as another typical ruse by these masters of delay.) This is significant because legal systems and legal reasoning involve attempts to draw up general rules and procedures to govern human interaction. The law, especially in a common-law system, is a historical enterprise in a way that Cummings should, in principle, approve of. That is to say, it seeks constantly to modify the agreed rules in the light of new circumstances; in this respect, it is one large feedback loop. And it attempts to take into account not just the purposes informing any given individuals actions, but the likely effect of such actions on the interests of others, now and in the future. Accumulated legal reasoning becomes, therefore, the great repository of wisdom about the social consequences of allowing this action or preventing that action, and it is, in an important sense, no respecter of persons: no one, as the phrase has it, is above the law.

                          Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson leaving 10 Downing Street, October 2019. Photograph: Pete Summers/Getty Images

                          Great leaders, revolutionaries, men of action and over-confident mavericks of all types always want to sweep the law aside, seeing only its negative character as a slow-moving body of outdated constraints on freedom of action but that, of course, suggests why it is so precious. Theres a fine exchange in Robert Bolts play A Man for All Seasons between Sir Thomas More, the lord chancellor who was to be executed for his opposition to Henry VIIIs break with Rome, and his earnest son-in-law, William Roper, in which Roper says he would cut down every law in England to get after the Devil, and More replies: Oh? And, when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?

                          Mores point, of course, is that if, when we have the power, we impatiently strike down all the laws that stand in our way, we shall have no protections to turn to when power is in the hands of others. Cummings writes from the perspective of someone whos in a hurry to get the thing done, never from the perspective of the judge who has been schooled to reflect on the potentially damaging consequences in the future of licensing this particular action in the present.

                          To balance Cummingss imagined course of maths, science and history, I could, teasingly, suggest that a no less valuable preparation for public life might be a combination of philosophy, jurisprudence and literature. Philosophy would introduce habits of analysis and undermine certainty or dogmatism; jurisprudence would teach an appreciation of rules, procedures and the judgment of consequences; and the study of literature would weaken the hold of cliche and all exaggerated beliefs in the fixity of meaning. It might be said, not altogether unfairly, that Cummingss course would produce doers and mine would produce critics (though the disciplines I suggest constantly generate new ideas rather than merely criticising old ones), but I would say that a healthy politics needs both, and that the more we emphasise the first category and try to give its occupants their head, the more we need the virtues of the second category to hold them in check.

                          Cummings, of course, believes that this is just what we dont need. We dont want more Oxbridge English graduates who chat about Lacan at dinner parties with TV producers and spread fake news about fake news, he wrote last month. This is an economical bit of target practice everyone knows, dont they, that one can hardly move in north London these days without falling over chat about Lacan at dinner parties but there may be deeper cultural antagonisms at work here. The datedness of the jibe about Lacan may suggest a long-nurtured touchiness. At one point Cummings says of himself, rather engagingly, I am not articulate, but you sense that he doesnt particularly rate articulateness in the first place. So much of what others think of as culture he regards as noise. Perhaps his recent call for super-talented weirdos to apply for staff jobs in Downing Street should be seen as something of a dating pitch.

                          In Cummingss ontology, the world appears to be made up of an extremely small number of outstandingly clever individuals and a mass of mediocrities. Human progress depends on giving those with the highest IQ (hes very keen on the notion of IQ) the education that will allow them fully to develop their talents and then the freedom to apply them. His culture heroes are those few outstanding mathematicians and scientists who fundamentally changed a whole intellectual field, such as Kurt Gdel, John von Neumann and Richard Feynman. He has an abiding interest not just in what kinds of conditions have favoured scientific breakthroughs in the past and how we might replicate those today, but even more in the organisational or management processes that enabled complex, long-term, science-based projects to translate brilliant new ideas into successful practical outcomes, such as Nasa (putting the first man on the moon) or Parc (the Palo Alto Research Center, which was the foundation of Silicon Valleys triumphs), and he gives illuminating accounts of their modus operandi. Just how far such procedures could be transferred to the muddy, shifting, contested world of politics is an open question, but Cummings insists they would be a big improvement on what we have now.

                          Politics is, by definition, the terrain of conflicting convictions, and although in principle Cummings lauds the idea of feedback and the correction of error, in practice he seems to struggle with the idea of genuine intellectual disagreement. There are traces of that kind of absolute certainty that is more often shown by fellow-travellers of science rather than by first-rate scientists themselves. And he is a bit quick to write off opposition to his ideas as yet another example of the self-protective vested interests of the establishment (as the mavericks maverick, he, of course, is not part of the establishment). The political-media system actively suppresses thinking about, and focus on, whats important, he writes. One of the things that irks him about politics is that it involves so much damn talk. For example, he speaks contemptuously of the debate about the EU referendum in 2016, the outcome of which he played such a signal part in influencing: Most of the debate was moronic as political debate always is. At least he cannot be accused of seeking cheap popularity.

                          In a curious way, there is very little politics in Cummingss political thinking: its largely about the operational process, not about the substantive aims, and there does not seem to be much feel for the irresolvable conflicts over fundamental values that are at the heart of political life. He extols the speed at which the denizens of Parc got things done: meetings in the political world, by contrast, tend to be just jibber-jabber. He has a natural antipathy to entities that seem to him to do little but block innovation professional associations, the civil service, trade unions, big organisations generally. His ideal form of government is one that operates like a small start-up: a few bright guys (they mostly seem to be guys), some unconventional thinking, no red tape and hey presto, something actually gets done. If Cummings has some claims to be regarded as an intellectual among technocrats, there is also a sense in which he is a technocrat among intellectuals. He is far more interested in abstract ideas than most technocrats, but he is far more interested in results than most intellectuals.

                          A striking further aspect of Cummingss worldview is a lively conviction that total disaster for humanity may be right around the corner: as he says darkly, its just a matter of when. Think about the possibility of pathogens escaping from high-security bio-labs and causing a global pandemic: we urgently need to be testing these labs security by setting up a new team that should include specialist criminals (well, yes, I suppose they are the experts in testing security). Or again, if you can understand probability few can, in his view then you will know that the Earth will be destroyed by an asteroid before long unless we do something about it: We know this for sure. One major reason for exploring outer space is to find somewhere habitable in which humans can sit out the destruction of the Earth (no, really), thus avoiding the difficult problems of keeping humans alive for thousands of years on spaceships (just when you thought you had enough to worry about). Existential paranoia on a galactic scale is, it seems, the new normal.

                          But no summary does justice to the fizz and energy of his forays into the world of ideas. Heres a representative example of Cummings wearing his historian-of-ideas hat:

                          What we have learned about our world vindicates the evolutionary perspective of the pre-Socratics (Anaximander, Heraclitus), Thucydides, Hume, Smith, Darwin, and Hayek over the anthropocentric perspective of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hobbes, Rousseau (the general will), Bentham, Mill (who introduced the concept of the natural monopoly) and Marx. Evolutionary biology, neuroscience, cognitive science, and behavioural genetics have undermined the basis for Descartes Ghost in the Machine, Lockes Blank Slate, and Rousseaus Noble Savage and have established a scientific basis for exploring a universal human nature. Economic theory, practice, and experiment have undermined the basis for Cartesian central planning: decentralised coordination via market prices is generally a better method for dealing with vast numbers of possibilities than Cartesian or Soviet planning, though obviously markets have problems particularly with monetary policy and financial regulation.

                          There is a grandeur and sweep here that it is hard not be impressed by. Just think: all those big names in the second list they all got it wrong. It turns out that evolution and neuroscience and all that neat stuff explain everything. Descartes and Soviet planning can be put in the same box because theyre both about people deciding things, and thats so last millennium.

                          But wait arent some people playing for the wrong team? If the first group are all about impersonal evolutionary systems and the second about individual human reasoners, shouldnt Marx be in (perhaps even captain of) the first team? Come to that, is Thucydides such an evolutionary thinker, or doesnt he emphasise the power of unchanging basic human motives in a way that has some affinities with, lets say, Hobbes? (Certainly that was Hobbess own view.)

                          The point is not to juggle the team selections so much as to wonder whether any useful historical purpose can be served by operating at such a high, and high-handed, level of generality. The differences among the names on the first list alone are far more interesting than any putative common characteristic. But also, is there really a logical connection between the diverse ideas of the first group and a commitment to markets, or is that list of big names a cross between window-dressing and bullying? Arent we moving a tad quickly to the conclusion that prices do better than planning? (Its hard to know what Cartesian planning would look like: I think, therefore I plan?)

                          Dominic Cummings at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, September 2019. Photograph: James Veysey/Rex/Shutterstock

                          In so far as there is a consistent politics here, it looks Hayekian that is, akin to the anti-statist thinking of the Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek, whose 1944 book The Road to Serfdom influentially argued that central planning was inimical to liberty as well as being ultimately self-defeating. He quotes with approval Hayeks dictum that order generated without design can far outstrip plans men consciously contrive. Cummings scorns traditional political labels, but his admiration for single-minded entrepreneurs, his obsession with the role of off-the-scale IQ and his belief in self-regulating economic systems scarcely make him a promising recruit for the left.

                          More generally, its hard to know how one could decide whether his Odyssean education essay, which his subsequent blogs draw upon extensively, is a) an astonishing intellectual tour de force knowledgably knitting together material from a wide range of disciplines, or b) a load of cod-science based on cobbling together hasty conclusions from random reading. Rather to my surprise, I now think its more of the first than the second. A lot of the time I found myself struggling to keep up, while admiring the sheer intellectual courage involved in trespassing so daringly. At other times, I felt I had been backed into a corner at a party by a wild-eyed obsessive jabbing his finger into my chest and saying, Not many people know this, but

                          Cummings clearly has a talent as well as an enthusiasm for expounding really quite technical scientific ideas. Even I had moments, reading his account, where I thought I half-understood something of what is involved in, say, sequencing the genome. But at other times, the jump from the science to the policy seemed altogether too confident to be persuasive. For example:

                          Most of our politics is still conducted with the morality and the language of the simple primitive hunter-gatherer tribe Our chimp politics has an evolutionary logic: our powerful evolved instinct to conform to a group view is a flip-side of our evolved in-group solidarity and hostility to out-groups This partly explains the persistent popularity of collectivist policies and why groupthink is a recurring disaster.

                          Whoa, hold on! There is a good reason why all attempts to draw a straightforward inference for current social life from something referred to as evolution always end up with a lot of egg on face: the supposed evolutionary logic explains everything and nothing. No amount of Attenborough-like attention to the gambolling of chimps in trees (a gaze already vitiated by its anthropomorphising tendencies) can yield an explanation for the persistent popularity of collectivist policies. After all, quite a few chimps, it turns out, prefer to vote Tory. And anyway, why is the popularity of collectivist policies any more in need of deep (and in some sense discrediting) explanation than that of, say, individualist policies? Somewhere along the journey from the science to the politics, an awful lot of non-scientific baggage seems to have got stacked on the wagon.

                          Dominic Cummings is now, in effect, the countrys project manager. Hes the Downing Street version of the Deliveroo guy who doesnt care whether youve ordered pepperoni or four-cheese: his job is to make it happen, and if that involves cycling the wrong way up one-way streets then thats probably a plus. His writing displays an alarming ability to focus on a goal to the exclusion of noticing, or caring about, any amount of collateral damage. Emotions mostly figure as forms of irrational distraction. Toes, after all, were put in the world largely to be trodden on. People around him dont have to take umbrage: he gives it to them, makes a present of it, with a liberality that would put a drunk in a bar to shame. He knows he has the intellectual firepower to be able to say: Get your thinktanks off my lawn.

                          Cummings himself quotes William Jamess pronouncement: When superior intellect and a psychopathic temperament coalesce we have the best possible conditions for the kind of effective genius that gets into the biographical dictionaries. It may be that thats how we should think of Cummings as an effective genius, or, rather, a genius of effectiveness. He is admirably committed to learning from science and to basing policies on evidence in a more than cursory way, but in the end, delivery is the point. Get x done, where (we might pseudo-mathematically say) the value of x equals a multiple of results from focus groups plus the square root of whatever appears to favour breakout thinking.

                          I would hesitate to treat Cummings as representative of anything: hes made being a one-off into an art form. But in so far as his writing chimes with certain contemporary cultural traits, perhaps one common element is a kind of dismissive impatience. The widely remarked decline of deference over the past couple of generations has been welcome on several counts, but in many quarters it has gone along with an unwillingness to find much of value or interest in anything that doesnt speak directly to ones own wishes in the present. When expressed in political terms, this kind of impatience is obviously not a monopoly of the left or the right; if anything, it can tend towards a rejection of the traditional forms of politics and political debate altogether. When combined with a fascination with the potential of science and technology, this urge translates into a form of technocracy; when laced with a hostility to traditional elites, this generates that distinctive modern hybrid, populist technocracy. Screw all those convoluted arguments: this is what we want, lets get it done.

                          It may be that the left has more to fear than the right from this irritable dismissal of political argument, since any progressive politics is reliant on reasoned discourse in making the case against the injustices of the status quo, and such discourse is inevitably a laborious, uneven business, much indebted to the thinking of earlier generations. Cummings is clearly not a conventional Tory, but perhaps his impatient individualism does express one of the most fundamental structures of feeling informing contemporary attitudes towards politics one that the left needs to challenge rather than simply to accommodate.

                          There is a long tradition of advisers to princes sharing their political understanding with the rest of us. To take just the best-known example, Machiavellis reflections after working in Renaissance Florences equivalent of Whitehall became a classic. Nothing Cummings has written up till now is in this league, but it will be interesting to see what he produces once he has laid down his carrier bag. Thus far, if theres timeless political wisdom here, its more Warren Buffett than Walter Bagehot (Buffett is another of Cummingss heroes, a model of focus). But I suspect his place in future biographical dictionaries will depend more on what he does than what he writes, despite all the indisputable power of mind exhibited in his forays into recent quantitative and biological research. And from that perspective, I only hope that, rather than figuring as an amalgam of Thucydides and Stephen Hawking, he doesnt end up looking more like an unnerving cross between Robespierre and Dr Strangelove.

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                          This week the novelist received the Olof Palme prize for achievement in the spirit of the assassinated Swedish statesman. He reflects on how a lack of leadership today has allowed us to sleepwalk into Brexit

                          A range of emotions, not all of them beautiful, passed through my head at the moment when I was offered the Olof Palme prize.

                          I am not a hero. I am a fraud. I am being offered a medal for another mans gallantry. Decline.

                          I am not a frontline advocate for truth or human rights. I have not suffered for my writing. I have been handsomely rewarded for it.

                          Neither did I feel myself the equal of any of the three writers who have preceded me at this rostrum: Vclav Havel, whom I briefly knew and revered, and the intrepid Roberto Saviano, both of whom in separate ways became martyrs to their work. And Carsten Jensen, writer on world conflict and sharer of its anguish.

                          If I wanted further proof of my inadequacy, I had only to listen to Daniel Ellsbergs moving speech at this same rostrum just a year ago. Why didnt I ever copy secret documents and stop a war?

                          It was only when I set out to explore the life and work of Olof Palme, and entered his spell, and discovered that same affinity with him that Ellsberg had so eloquently described, that it seemed just possible I might not be quite such a bad fit after all.

                          Reading and thinking about Palme makes you wonder who you are. And who you might have been, but werent. And where your moral courage went when it was needed. You ask yourself what power drove him golden boy, aristocratic family, brilliant scion of the best schools and the best cavalry regiment to embrace from the outset of his career the cause of the exploited, the deprived, the undervalued and the unheard?

                          Was there, somewhere in his early life, as there is in the lives of other men and women of his calibre, some defining moment of inner anger and silent purpose? As a child he was sickly, and partly educated at home. He has the feel of a loner. Did his school peers get under his skin: their sense of entitlement, their contempt for the lower orders, their noise, their vulgarity and artlessness? Mine did. And no one is easier to hate than a contemptible version of oneself.

                          Graham Greene remarked that a novelist needed a chip of ice in his heart. Was there a chip of ice in Palmes heart? He may not have been a novelist, but there was art in him, and a bit of the actor. He knew that you cant make great causes stick without political power. And for political power, you definitely need a chip or two of ice.

                          Olof Palme was assassinated in 1986. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features

                          The United States did not take lightly in those days, any more than it does now, being held to account by a nation it dismisses as tin-pot. And Sweden was a particularly irritating tin-pot nation, because it was European, articulate, cultured, rich, and white. But Palme loved being the irritant. Relished it. Relished being the outsider voice, the one that refuses to be categorised, the one that shouldnt be in the room at all. It brought out the best in him.

                          And now and then, I have to say, it does the same for me.

                          Its a long time since my post box contained estate agents brochures for deep shelters in the Nevada desert. You entered by way of a tumbledown shack, designed to look like an abandoned outside loo. An elevator swept you 200ft underground to a luxury apartment where you could hold out till Armageddon was safely over and normal services were resumed. And when the all clear was sounded and you came up the escalator, the only people left would be your rich friends and the Swiss.

                          So why isnt the threat of nuclear war today as present or terrifying to us as it was in Palmes day? Is it simply that the nuclear threat is so ubiquitous, so diffuse and irrational? North Korea? Isis? Iran? Russia? China? Or todays White House with its born-again evangelists dreaming of the Rapture? Better to invest our existential fears in things we understand: bushfires, melting icebergs, and the uncomfortable truths of Greta Thunberg.

                          But the cold war was anything but irrational. It was two players facing each other across a nuclear chessboard. And for all their clever spying, neither knew the first thing about the other.

                          John le Carr at a pro-EU rally, Parliament Square, London, in October 2019. Photograph: Sean Smith/The Guardian

                          I try to imagine how it was for Palme in those times: the shuttle diplomacy, the tireless reasoning with people locked into their positions and scared of their superiors. I was the lowest form of spy life, but even I got wind of contingency plans for outright nuclear war. If you are in Berlin or Bonn when the Russian tanks sweep over you, be sure to destroy your files first. First? What was second? And I doubt whether your chances would have been much rosier in Stockholm.

                          In Berlin, in August 1961, I look on as coils of Russian barbed wire are unrolled across the Friedrichstrasse checkpoint, otherwise known as Checkpoint Charlie. Intermittently, in the days that follow, I watch the Wall go up, one concrete block at a time. Do I lift a finger? No one did. And maybe that was the worst part of it: the oppressive sense of your own irrelevance.

                          But Palme refused to be irrelevant. He would make himself heard if it killed him, and perhaps in the end it did.

                          Its October 1962 and Cuban crisis time. I am a junior diplomat at the British embassy in Bonn and I have just moved into a new hiring beside the river Rhine. German decorators are painting the walls. Its a sunny autumn and I think I must have been on leave because I am sitting in the garden writing.

                          The blare of the builders transistor radio is drowned by the din of passing barges, until suddenly it is belting out the news of Kennedys ultimatum to Khrushchev: Turn back your missiles, Mr Chairman, or your country and mine will be at war or words to that effect. The painters politely excuse themselves, wash their brushes, and go home to be with their families at worlds end. I drive to the embassy in case theres work to be done. There isnt. So I drive home again and continue writing The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

                          Richard Burton in the film of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965). Photograph: Collectin Christophel/Alamy

                          So what was Palme doing while the Soviet fleet continued on its way to Cuba and the world waited dry-mouthed to see who blinked first? Until I knew better, I pictured him sitting head in hands in some lonely place, despairing. I am a failed peacemaker. My mediations have been in vain. If the world ends, its all my fault.

                          But he had no time for that stuff. He was in Stockholm, pressing for educational reform, bumping up Swedens international aid budget and picking up the pieces after Stig Wennerstrm, a senior Swedish air force officer, was exposed as a Soviet spy. And thats something thats too easy to forget about Palme the diplomat for world peace and nuclear disarmament: he had a country to run.

                          Spying? Palme? Theres been a lot of talk about it. As a young intern in Swedish intelligence, he had acquired an early taste for the black arts and it stayed with him for the rest of his political life. And who can blame him? When youre defending yourself on half a dozen home fronts; when youre sitting out the night on tedious committees; when a far right mob of hooligans is burning your effigy in the street and chucking darts at pictures of your face, what greater relief than to settle down comfortably with your spies and give yourself over to the consolations of intrigue?

                          And I am not at all surprised that in the midst of excoriating the Americans for the Vietnam war, Palme the pragmatist was reading secret American intelligence reports. After all, he had a country to protect.

                          Palme never saw the cold war end, but he experienced its worst years. And by the close of his life they had left their mark: testiness, distraction, impatience, battle fatigue. You only have to look at the last photographs to read the signs. You only have to hear the barely controlled anger breaking through his voice when he reads his statement on the bombing of Hanoi. I hear nervous advisers begging him not to use the forbidden G-word, genocide.

                          They wore you out, those American nuclear warriors. I have a particularly unpleasant memory and maybe so had Palme of the US governments twenty-something defence analysts who lived on rock music and Coca-Cola while they calculated to the last half-million or so how many of us would be turned to ash in a first strike.

                          It was their air of superiority that got to me, the we know better than you do about how youre going to die. I just couldnt warm to them. Did Palme have business with their Russian counterparts? I guess they were much the same.

                          And sometimes it was the sheer decency and good manners of Washingtons top warriors that wore you down. Good family men, I remember. Really decent people: touch football with their kids on Saturdays, church on Sundays. I met a few. And so, Im sure, did Palme. Well, theyd concede, they did do insomnia a bit. A nervous breakdown here and there, the odd broken marriage. And kids traumatised by what they picked up from the table talk, but that was just parental carelessness.

                          And Palme the determined non-combatant walked among them. Politely. Lawyer to lawyer. Man to man. And be sure never to mention the G-word, genocide.

                          As I continue to read and think my way through Palmes life, my sense of kinship becomes possessive. I want a Palme for my country, which in my lifetime hasnt produced a single statesman of his stamp. I want him now. Im not just a remainer. Im a European through and through, and the rats have taken over the ship, I want to tell him. Its breaking my heart and I want it to break yours. We need your voice to wake us from our sleepwalk, and save us from this wanton act of political and economic self-harm. But youre too late.

                          If Johnson and his Brexiteers had their way, it would be declared St Brexits Day. Church bells across the land would peal out the gladsome tidings from every tower. And good men of England would pause their stride and doff their caps in memory of Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, Trafalgar, and mourn the loss of our great British empire. Empires dont die just because theyre dead.

                          We Brits are all nationalists now. Or so Johnson would have us believe. But to be a nationalist you need enemies and the shabbiest trick in the Brexiteers box was to make an enemy of Europe. Take back control! they cried, with the unspoken subtext: and hand it to Donald Trump, along with our foreign policy, our economic policy, our health service and, if they can get away with it, our BBC.

                          So Boris Johnson with our blessing has taken his place beside two other accomplished liars of our time: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. If Palme were trying to get the truth out of them, which of the three would he turn to? Or none of the above?

                          One day somebody will explain to me why it is that, at a time when science has never been wiser, or the truth more stark, or human knowledge more available, populists and liars are in such pressing demand.

                          But dont blame the Tories for their great victory. It was Jeremy Corbyns Labour party, with its un-policy on Brexit, its antisemitism and student-level Marxism-Leninism that alienated traditional Labour voters and left them nowhere to go. They looked to the left and didnt recognise their leader. They looked to the centre and there was nobody there. They were sick of Brexit and sick of politics, and probably as sick of Johnsons voice as I was. So they pinched their noses and voted for the least worst option. And actually, who can blame them?

                          Palme hated war, but I dont know how much of it he actually saw. A little goes a long way. Or it did for me.

                          My first cautious glimpse came when I visited Cambodia shortly before the American defeat. Forty years earlier, Palme had toured Southeast Asia and seen for himself the disastrous effect of French, British and American colonialism. By the time I got there, the disaster was wholly American-owned.

                          Phnom Penh is encircled. The taxi driver charges $30 to take you to the frontline. You want shooting? he asks. Yes, please, I want shooting. He parks, you walk the rest of the way. You get shot at and return to your taxi. On the road back through town to the hotel, children sit on the pavement selling bottles of petrol siphoned from abandoned cars.

                          At the edge of Phnom Penh an artillery battery is providing covering fire for an infantry attack against the invisible jungle enemy. Deafened by gunfire, children huddle round the guns, each waiting for his father to come back. They know that if he doesnt, his commanding officer will pocket his pay instead of reporting him dead.

                          Im in Sidon, South Lebanon, house guest of the Palestinian chief of fighters, Salah Tamari. He takes me on a tour of the childrens hospital. A boy with his legs blown off gives me the thumbs up. Another dreams of going to university in Havana once hes got his eyesight back. Palme had three sons, I had four. Maybe we had the same nightmares.

                          Which reminds me. As things stand, one of the first acts of Johnsons post-Brexit government will be to deny child refugees the right to be reunited with their parents in Britain.

                          How would Palme have responded to todays Orwellian lie machines that would have made Joseph Goebbels blush as they wear down our decency, our common sense, and drive us to question incontestable truths?

                          The last splinters of Jamal Khashoggi have, we assume, been swept under the carpet of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The culprits have freely confessed that they acted on impulse. They just went a bit wild, the way boys do. The Crown Prince is shocked. The rest is fake news. No bone saw, no screams, no Khashoggi lookalike walking out of the consulate wearing the wrong shoes.

                          So heres a question. If Palme were Swedens prime minister today, and Sweden had a fat arms deal running with Saudi Arabia, which way would he jump? Would he take a sensible, relaxed British view and say, look here, for heavens sake, lets stop moaning and get on with the next shipment, theyre Arabs and theyve got a war to feed? Or would he as I want to believe tell his arms industry: whatever it costs, just bloody well stop.

                          Alec Guinness as George Smiley: Smiley and I have history together. Sixty years of it. Photograph: BBC

                          I dont know whether Palme read me youd be amazed how many people havent. What I do know is that, quite soon after I began reading my way through his life, and the causes that inspired him, it seemed to me that every book I had written was some sort of unconscious footstep along his path.

                          My leading character, and the one I am best known for, is George Smiley. Smiley was recruited to the Secret Service in his early youth, as I was, and for all his earnest excursions into 17th-century German literature, at heart he knew no other world than the secret one. Throughout his long professional life he was besieged by moral doubt. When I was asked to draw a picture of him, I drew a lonely man carrying his horse uphill an image that might have won a weary smile of recognition from Palme.

                          Smiley and I have history together. Sixty years of it. When I took a new direction, Smiley followed me. And sometimes Smiley knew the way better than I did and I followed him, which is what happens when you invent a character who is smarter than you are.

                          Here is Smiley in 1979, when the cold war looked as though it would last forever. With exemplary tradecraft, he has lured his Soviet adversary, codename Karla, across the Berlin Wall. He has done this by exploiting a character defect, as we liked to call it, in this otherwise impenetrable communist diehard. The character defect in question is love: a fathers love for his mentally sick daughter. In defiance of every rule in the KGB handbook, Karla has spirited his beloved daughter to a Swiss sanatorium under a false name, and Smiley has used this knowledge to blackmail him. And now here Karla comes, Soviet zealot, loving father, defector, across the Glienicke Bridge from East to West Berlin.

                          George, you won, says Peter Guillam, Smileys loyal disciple.

                          Did I? Yes. Yes, well I suppose I did, Smiley replies.

                          Palme would have shared his self-disgust.

                          When the cold war ended and the western world was still congratulating itself, Smiley felt betrayed, and so did I. And Palme would have felt betrayed, if he had lived long enough. Where was the promised peace we had all been waiting for? Where was the Great Vision? The reconciliation? The nuclear disarmament treaty that Palme had been tirelessly working for? Where was the Marshall Plan that would pull battered nations off their knees? And above all, where was the voice of hope and renewal? Is it too fanciful to imagine that, had he lived, Palme might have supplied that voice?

                          Here is Smiley in 1990, one year after the Wall came down and four years after Palmes death: One day, history may tell us who really won. If a democratic Russia emerges why, then Russia will have been the winner. And if the West chokes on its own materialism, then the West may still turn out to be the loser.

                          I see Palme nodding.

                          And here is Smiley in great age he was always older than me, a father figure still hunting for the answer to a question that has haunted him all his life: did I compromise my humanity to the point where I lost it altogether?

                          We were not pitiless, Peter, he insists to his same disciple. We were never pitiless. We had the larger pity. Arguably it was misplaced. Certainly it was futile. We know that now. But we did not know it then.

                          But in my imagination I hear Palme vigorously object: That is an unsound, self-serving argument that could equally well apply to any monstrous act perpetrated in the name of democracy.

                          I see a sharp, swift face. Restless eyes, sometimes hooded. Smiles real and forced. A face that struggles for forbearance in the presence of lesser minds, vulnerable, watchful, and precious in the way we imagine young poets to be. The precise voice barely falters even when its owner is on fire. I feel an unbearable impatience burning in him, caused by seeing and feeling more clearly and faster than anybody else in the room.

                          Le Carr in 1965. Photograph: Cine Text/Sportsphoto/Allstar

                          I would have been nervous to engage him in argument because he would have made rings round me even when I was right. But I never met him. I can only hear him and watch him and read him. The rest is catch-up.

                          The last speech of his life was to the United Nations in 1985: an unsuccessful appeal to ban the use of nuclear weapons under international law. Thirty years on, the Swedish government voted for just such a ban. Now called upon to reaffirm their vote, they have postponed their decision under American pressure. The issue is back on the table. We shall see.

                          How would Palme wish to be remembered? Well, by this for a start. For his life, not his death. For his humanism, courage, and the breadth and completeness of his humanist vision. As the voice of truth in a world hell-bent on distorting it. By the inspiring, inventive enterprises undertaken yearly by young people in his name.

                          Is there anything I would like to add to his epitaph? A line by May Sarton that he would have enjoyed: One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being.

                          And how would I like to be remembered? As the man who won the 2019 Olof Palme prize will do me just fine.

                          David Cornwell, January 2020. This speech was given at the Olof Palme prize ceremony in Stockholm on 30 January.

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                          (CNN)On New Year’s Eve, attorney Joseph A. Bondy hopped on a subway train headed toward the US attorney’s office in lower Manhattan to pick up a disk loaded with Lev Parnas’ cell phone contents. It was the first piece of evidence prosecutors had released to him since his client was arrested in October.

                          House Democrats had voted to impeach President Donald Trump, and Bondy watched as witness upon witness testified while Parnas — an associate of Rudy Giuliani in his Ukraine political efforts — sat on the sidelines.
                          As Bondy spent a week struggling to access the device, which he anticipated was filled with relevant text messages and documents, he did what he could to make Parnas part of the conversation. Bondy began tweeting daily photo montages of Parnas with Giuliani, GOP lawmakers, Trump and his family members — with the hashtag #LetLevSpeak and #LevRemembers. In a tweet last week, he added music to the montage — a snippet of MC Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This.”
                            “I couldn’t get him in the door at the (House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence) without these materials, I started to just raise public awareness. I thought the best friend that we have is the public — and in every case I feel that the best friend you have is the public,” Bondy told CNN.
                            The initial strategy paid off. About 48 hours after Bondy delivered the files to Congress, House investigators released a trove of materials from Parnas, including a letter Giuliani sent to Ukraine’s President-elect requesting a meeting with the “knowledge and consent” of the US President. There were also text messages suggesting the US ambassador who Giuliani was trying to remove was under surveillance. In a blitz of interviews which began that night, he sat down with CNN and MSNBC.
                            “The truth is out now, thank God,” Parnas told Anderson Cooper in an interview last week. “I thought they were going to shut me up and make me look like the scapegoat and try to blame me for stuff I haven’t done.”
                            The documents were released two days before articles of impeachment were delivered to the US Senate. They jolted a trial that had largely been mapped out for weeks and interjected new allegations that Democrats have used to bolster their calls for witnesses with Parnas now potentially one of them.
                            The legal strategy is risky and has thrust Parnas, who is facing criminal charges, into the spotlight with few legal protections or guarantees. He’s been indicted on four federal crimes relating to campaign finance laws. He has pleaded not guilty.
                            Prosecutors have expressed no interest in signing up Parnas with a cooperation deal, have said additional charges against him are likely and tried to revoke his bail. Bondy believes prosecutors have purposefully delayed providing him evidence in order to prevent Parnas from being of value to Congress.
                            A spokesman for the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York declined to comment.
                            “When I started this case, Lev was a figure on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ He was the gangster with unpaid debts. Now he’s become perhaps the most pivotal witness that could be offered in a trial,” Bondy says.

                              Lev Parnas: Trump is lying. He knows me

                            Bondy, who cut his teeth defending violent criminals including Peter Gotti, the brother of Gambino crime family boss John Gotti Jr., acknowledges Parnas’ strategy is a legal high-wire act but, he says, he has faith in the truth.
                            “The risks are enormous and the only way that this works is by him being truthful and wanting to be helpful,” says Bondy. His objective is that “I am able to say to my judge at the end of this day, no matter what happens, he tried very hard and what he did that was so helpful transcends him.”
                            It’s not Bondy’s first time in the spotlight. Early in his career he represented a notorious drug dealer known as El Feo along with defendants linked to organized crime whose cases splashed across the New York tabloids.
                            “What I think they’re trying to do is essentially alternative route cooperation, the alternative route being Congress,” said Elie Hoenig, a former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst. He predicts Parnas will plead guilty to some charges and aim to win over the judge at sentencing.
                            “I think ultimately the strategy is you get in front of the judge at sentencing (and say) we tried to cooperate with SDNY but my client did cooperate with something perhaps more important, Congress — the House and Senate — on the most important matters and he should get some sentencing credit for it,” said Hoenig, who squared off against Bondy in the Gotti case.
                            “It’s a variant of what Michael Cohen tried to do. It didn’t work out great for Cohen,” added Hoenig.
                            Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, pleaded guilty to nine criminal charges, but didn’t sign a cooperation deal with SDNY prosecutors because he wouldn’t admit or reveal additional crimes. Cohen cooperated with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and testified before multiple congressional committees. He received some credit from the judge but was still sentenced to three years in prison.
                            Bondy brushes off those comparisons, saying he’s won lower sentences for multiple clients over the years. “For those who know me they know that my knowledge and interest in the sentencing guidelines runs deep,” he said.
                            Hoenig added that even if Parnas didn’t get into the substance of the charges in his televised interviews, he gave prosecutors something to work with at trial, such as establishing the relationships that Parnas had with Giuliani, people in the Ukraine and Trump.
                            “It does look like he’s putting a heck of a lot of chips on this idea of getting credit for cooperating with Congress,” Hoenig said, adding that Bondy is “a good advocate. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a smart guy.”

                            From the Mafia to cannabis

                            Bondy, 52, grew up on Manhattan’s east side, the son of a school teacher and chemical engineer.
                            He says his mother was the driving force behind him becoming a lawyer. When she pressed him about what he wanted to do with his life, he says he grew irritated and blurted out that he wanted to be a Mafia lawyer.

                            “Without skipping a beat she said the best criminal defense lawyers went to Brooklyn Law School,” Bondy recalls. Bondy applied. The rest is history.
                            Bondy rents a small corner office in a suite from Gerald Lefcourt, a well-known criminal defense lawyer, but he sits facing the door not the view of Midtown.(Lefcourt represents one of the men who is a co-defendant in Parnas’ case.)
                            He says he’s been inspired by his faith and the idea of sticking up for the underdog, sometimes against all odds.
                            “I wanted to be a people’s lawyer. I never wanted to represent big business. I wanted to give a voice to people who didn’t have one,” said Bondy, beginning to cry.
                            One inspiration comes from “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Atticus Finch, a white lawyer who represents an African American man accused of rape in the South. “He’s defending poor Tom Robinson and he’s saving him hopefully and fighting against this white patrician culture,” says Bondy. But when Finch leaves the courtroom after his client is convicted, Bondy says, he learned another lesson.
                            “For all of the beautiful things you see in Atticus, I don’t ever want to walk away from someone like that,” Bondy said.
                            Bondy’s career is dotted with defendants many might shy away from representing.
                            Early in his career, Bondy represented Jose Reyes, a New York drug dealer confined to a wheelchair known as El Feo, who was convicted of murdering seven men and running a narcotics organization. Bondy, who was still cutting his teeth as an attorney, says Reyes is the first client he had to tell that they lost the appeal and would spend the rest of his life in prison.
                            That led to representing other clients, including Gotti, who was convicted of plotting to murder Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano. Bondy also represented Louis Eppolitto, a New York Police Department detective turned mafia hit man. Eppolitto was convicted of helping to murder eight men.
                            “You can represent a big pariah. If you can represent people in high profile cases and ensure their rights are protected when everyone hates them then all the rest of us are protected,” Bondy says.
                            Before Parnas, Bondy had shifted into cannabis law — seeing it as a way to address social justice reform.
                            “This whole marijuana movement is tied to criminal justice reform, which is tied to social justice reform. You’re talking about cannabis. You’re talking about mandatory minimum sentencing. You’re talking about bail, you’re talking about criminal convictions,” Bondy explains. He is one of several lawyers who brought a 2018 lawsuit against the Department of Justice to remove marijuana as a controlled substance. The case is ongoing.
                            Bondy launched a weekly Facebook video talk show called “In the Know 420,” where he hosts guests to discuss the latest in cannabis news.
                            It was also through his work in the area — he’s a board member of the Cannabis Cultural Association — that Bondy began to see the benefits of social media, a tactic at the heart of his campaign with Parnas.
                            “I learned how to do things like use Instagram and use my Facebook feed, do a live stream. I learned the benefit of tweeting,” he says.
                            Bondy’s talk show has taken a back seat since he began representing Parnas, but he says his campaign to make Parnas more human has shifted the story. He’s also won over one of his toughest critics, his daughter, who initially didn’t like that her father was representing a political operative.
                            “What speaks to me about Lev is when people are in pain I cry for them. When people are hurt, I feel it. I can’t explain it in a sense more for that,” Bondy said.
                            Bondy began representing Parnas in late October, a few weeks after he was arrested at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C., while boarding a one-way flight to Vienna. While in jail arranging bail, Parnas learned that Trump denied knowing him.
                            In his jail cell, Parnas fired his lawyers, John Dowd, a lawyer who at times has represented Trump, and Kevin Downing, who represented Paul Manafort. Bondy won’t go into detail about how he came to Parnas. “It’s not important,” he adds.
                            He hired Bondy and they decided to reverse Dowd’s earlier legal strategy to not cooperate with Congress. Weeks later they broke from Edward MacMahon, a high-powered Washington lawyer who initially worked with Bondy.
                            Bondy has also clashed with prosecutors in court and behind the scenes.
                            In early December, prosecutors said they had seized roughly two-dozen electronic devices from Parnas and his home after he was arrested. The devices were password protected and prosecutors said they were having trouble accessing them and sent some materials to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia. Bondy would not provide Parnas’ password.
                            When Bondy asked to amend Parnas’ bail to allow him a few hours a day outside of his Florida home, prosecutors asked the judge to have Parnas remanded to prison. They alleged Parnas misled them repeatedly on sworn financial documents, specifically about a $1 million loan from a Ukrainian oligarch with links to Trump’s lawyers.
                            At a court hearing, Bondy convinced the judge that the $1 million loan to Parnas’ wife was not intentionally meant to mislead prosecutors.
                            But he was frustrated that he still didn’t have what he wanted — the contents of Parnas’ devices. Prosecutors alerted him that they had accessed some of the materials, including a cell phone in late December, which Bondy picked up on New Year’s Eve.
                            He blames prosecutors for slow-walking the materials.
                            “I have no doubt in my mind that they deliberately tried to thwart the flow of this evidence. I have no doubt in my mind that it was a belief that if you circle the wagons with these lawyers and then put a lid on Lev and tell him to shut up that’s part of a coordinated plan to protect the President,” Bondy alleges. On Monday, Bondy asked Attorney General William Barr to recuse himself from the investigation.
                              Parnas’ legal fate is still in limbo. He faces the prospect of additional criminal charges and the Senate has not said if they will hear witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.
                              “I’m dealing with the hand that I’ve been dealt,” says Bondy. “Truth and contrition go a long, long way in securing a positive outcome.”

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